First of all, let’s get one thing straight: you are not “guilty.” That term has a fixed meaning in criminal law, and it means that someone has been found by a court to have committed an offense against statutory law. No court has decided your case yet, so you can’t be guilty. You might feel embarrassed or ashamed or regretful about something foolish you have done, but that’s not the same as legal guilt.
Prosecutors try to confuse the terms so you will confess. If you confess, that makes things easier for them (and tougher for you). That’s not the only way that prosecutors try to play mind games with you.
Whether you are facing a federal felony charge or a North Carolina misdemeanor, you are at a disadvantage from the start. The full power of the government is set against you. The sheriff who arrested you and the police detective investigating your case are government employees. The members of the State Bureau of Investigation, who conferred on your case, work for the government. So does the person who will file charges against you, whether she is a federal prosecutor or an assistant prosecutor for the local district attorney’s office.
Most of the power is in the hands of the prosecutor, who has almost unlimited options in deciding what to do with your case. This is what is called prosecutorial discretion. She could drop the charges and let you go free, or decide to “make an example of you” and pile on dozens of functionally similar charges, just to increase your prison time if you are convicted. What do you have to match against that power?
Actually, you have two important factors on your side.
First, there’s the burden of proof. The prosecutor must prove that you violated a specific law—and prove it so thoroughly that a reasonable person would be compelled to believe her. That’s the famous standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” you probably have heard mentioned on television.
Even if you believe you are guilty, you can’t be sure the prosecutor can prove it—and proof is all-important for a conviction. Often, prosecutors misjudge how easily they can prove something. They sometimes accuse the wrong person, and even more often they choose the wrong charges—overestimating the strength of the evidence they have. That’s why the government team would love to have you volunteer a confession: it makes their job much easier.
The second asset you have on your side is an experienced Wilmington criminal defense lawyer, who can anticipate what the prosecutor will do because he’s already seen all her tricks. You need the support of the Speaks Law Firm.
Even if you think you did something wrong, you are entitled to have your attorney hear your side of the story. You owe it to everyone you know to require that the prosecutor prove her case in open court, and not bully people into confessions. Even if you don’t want to be represented by an attorney in court, you owe it to yourself to have a consultation with a North Carolina defense lawyer to help you make sense of the legal jargon.
Call Speaks Law Firm today at 910-341-7570 (locally) or 910-341-7570 (statewide toll-free) to connect with a Wilmington criminal defense attorney for the advice you need now. At Speaks Law, we really believe that every client is our most important client.
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